So far most of what I’ve written to you about has been focused on the emotional and psychological responses that you may encounter as a family caregiver. Those visceral, internal struggles to be that “ideal” caregiver or at least respond better to the situation. This focus is important because I found that I was giving so much outwardly during this time that at times I forgot who I was. This meant I said and did some unfortunate things.
Today I want to remind you that everyone encircling your dying loved one is also going through this emotional roller coaster. As hard as it may be, we’ve got to lower our expectations of others as much as we need to ask them to allow us our space.
Probably more importantly, we need to continue to see these individuals as who they are, not who we want them to be or how they are showing up during this time.
My brother and I are very different people. Always have been. But for some reason I struggled to understand how he was viewing my Dad and his end-of-life journey so differently than me. Why didn’t he see things with the same clarity as me? Why was he not concerned about this “important” thing, but that “inconsequential” matter occupied all his time?
Because we have different strengths and weaknesses, needs and wants. In some families, these differences become so acute during this time period that the fissures of family turn into cracks that crumble with the death of your loved one.
Throughout my conversations around Caregiven this has been one of the saddest realities. All families fall apart when a loved one dies; those who reform a new family dynamic have to do so by overlooking a lot.
The absolute last thing and significant fear of any dying person is that their death will cause the family they love to fall apart.
Ugliness and beauty will come from every single person encircling your dying loved one – including you. We lash out, we fight, we flee, we control, we internalize, blame and accept responsibility – we process grief in real time which happens to be at the same time and within the same space as others.
Despite how it may seem, we all really are trying our best given the emotions we’re dealing with.
Try to keep this in mind. In the future I’ll talk about the different responsibilities of caregivers and how it’s important to enable those within the caring circle to take on the role(s) that best suit them.